Bound by a single moment in time, the Cagle family was united across the Southeast.
As Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter nailed a game-winning 3-pointer against Baylor in the NCAA tournament’s round of 64, three conference champions looked on in shock from Jacksonville, Fla., to Atlanta.
All three Cagle brothers, sons of Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, have been a part of Georgia State conference championship teams — two in golf and one in basketball. Following successful high school careers as student-athletes at Johnson High School, Jared, Grant and Carter Cagle are proud Georgia State products whose respective teams have reached high peaks.
Carter, the youngest of the three brothers, hopes the best is yet to come.
“I can’t help but look to the future,” said Carter, a freshman on the Panthers basketball team under head coach Ron Hunter. “But we want to make the most of today, transcending the limitations. The rest will take care of itself.”
Carter walked on to Hunter’s team after a four-year career under Johnson coach Jeff Steele. The freshman, a natural 3-point shooter, proved himself valuable as part of Georgia State’s scout team as the Panthers prepared for the season’s opponents.
Carter saw action in 12 games this past season after helping lead Steele’s Knights to back-to-back region championships. Carter’s mother, Nita, kept the scorebooks for Steele, while the lieutenant governor would cheer on his son whenever he had the chance to come up from the state house.
Steele had the opportunity to coach all three Cagle brothers in high school as head coach of the boys basketball and golf programs.
“They’re classy people,” Steele said. “And they raised their kids well, which carries a lot of weight.”
Casey Cagle, a Georgia Southern alumnus, watched from the State Capitol with middle son Grant as Georgia State defeated Baylor and moved on to the round of 32 for the first time since 2001. Meanwhile, elder brother Jared, the Panthers’ assistant golf coach, watched huddled around a television set at the Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro. His team was preparing to take part in the Linger Longer tournament at Lake Oconee when Jared and his team caught the end of the game at a host family’s house.
“We had a camera set up behind our shoulders as the last moments played, and we absolutely went crazy,” Jared said. “SportsCenter picked it up, the Golf Channel picked it up. It was a great reaction.”
Less than a week earlier, Georgia State’s basketball team had beaten Georgia Southern in New Orleans to win its first Sun Belt Conference title since rejoining the league in 2013. Days later, there was Carter, running out to halfcourt to celebrate while pandemonium reigned inside Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
“I was shocked, and Dad was running around high-fiving everybody,” Grant said. “It was kind of surreal.”
Carter said he couldn’t grasp the moment until much later, when he was back in the locker room.
“I kind of had a time where I looked around for a minute, at the stage where I was standing on,” he said. “You sit in the locker room, look at the ground and you’re like, ‘Did that just happen to me?’”
Carter’s older brothers laid the groundwork for Georgia State success in the Cagle family. After a five-year playing career on the Panthers men’s golf team, Jared took a graduate assistant position under head coach Joe Inman before being hired as his full-time assistant in July 2013.
A talented prospect out of high school, Jared often struggled to develop his game because of his technical, methodical approach to his own mechanics. Being a coach, according to Inman, opened Jared’s eyes to how he could help future golfers succeed.
“As an assistant coach, he’s been great with the kids,” said Inman, who played for 13 years on the PGA Tour. “He was really good at communicating with them, getting young people to slow down enough to listen. It helped him gain perspective now that he’s away from it.”
Jared was able to play with younger brother Grant, the 2010 Hall County champion, for two years after Grant entered Georgia State. Steele said he still has fond memories of Grant’s senior year, when the Johnson Knights finished fourth in state before being invited to a national tournament in Florida.
“Those are the kinds of memories that you hang onto for a long time,” said Steele. “Grant and Jared amazed me on the course. I watched them grow up, man.”
Jared began his first year as assistant coach by the time Grant hit senior year behind a strong starting lineup. The two would meet for lunch whenever Grant struggled with his driver shot and needed advice.
Grant, who typically had a looser approach to his game than Jared, was often a nice complement to his methodical older brother. Sometimes, they’d meet up at a local deli called Reuben’s, just to focus on mechanics.
Grant competed in six tournaments as his team rattled off three straight wins behind a strong starting five.
Grant cheered on his older brother as Jared and the team traveled to Saucier, Miss., to take part in the Sun Belt Conference Championship in 2014. They held on to a one-stroke lead to earn their seventh conference title in program history. It was Georgia State’s first league title in the Sun Belt as Damon Stephenson drained a birdie putt on the final hole.
Jared, the face of calm for Georgia State, tried to keep his emotions in check in the final moments.
“I tried to be pretty reserved, to be the calming influence,” he said. “I wanted to keep them even, and trying to convey that they weren’t done yet.”
The team went on to earn second place in NCAA regionals before finishing 22nd in the nation at the NCAA championship in Hutchinson, Kan.
Jared is well into his second year under coach Inman, and has helped the team to three top-10 finishes this season.
Grant is currently job-searching in the Atlanta area, while Carter will soon be working to make sure the Panthers men’s basketball team doesn’t lose momentum in the offseason.
The three always find ways to keep in touch, from meeting for lunch to texting throughout the day.
“Our relationship isn’t going to suffer, no matter how many texts or tweets or trophies we get,” Carter said. “That’s our biggest priority.”